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  Adolphus George Charles Liddell (1846–1920), by Julia Margaret Cameron, c.1867 Adolphus George Charles Liddell (1846–1920), by Julia Margaret Cameron, c.1867
Liddell, Adolphus George Charles (1846–1920), society figure and lawyer, was born at Bramham House, near Tadcaster, on 29 June 1846, the elder of the two sons of the Hon. Sir Adolphus Frederick Octavius Liddell (1818–1885), under-secretary at the Home Office, eighth son of the first Baron Ravensworth, and Frederica Elizabeth Lane-Fox (d. 1867). He had four sisters. Educated at Eton College and Balliol College, Oxford, he was called to the bar in 1871 and practised on the north-eastern circuit. Through his father's influence he served as secretary to three royal commissions. He developed a profound distaste for the practice of the law and welcomed his appointment in 1886 as chief clerk to the crown office in chancery. He became assistant secretary in the Lord Chancellor's Department in 1888, which office he held until his retirement in 1919. He also served as private secretary to the lord chancellor from 1909 to 1915.

An unremarkable official career was enlivened by his social connections and a complex personal life. ‘Doll’ Liddell belonged to the set known as the Souls, through whom he met both of the women he hoped to marry, Laura Tennant (1862–1886) [see under ] and Edith Balfour (d. 1948), and the man who married them, Alfred Lyttelton (1857–1913). Captivated by Laura Tennant's ‘mixture of innocence and mischief’ (Liddell, 225), he enjoyed a passionate and physical (if unconsummated) affair with her from their first meeting in 1884 until some time after her engagement to Alfred Lyttelton was announced in January 1885. Three years later he became involved with Edith Balfour, a more conventional young woman, who also declined to marry him despite a shared physical attraction, and subsequently married Lyttelton, who had been widowed in 1886. Liddell, who remained unmarried, published a volume of closely observed recollections in 1911 under the title Notes from the Life of an Ordinary Mortal. He died on 12 August 1920, at his home, 6 Seville Street, Chelsea, London.

K. D. Reynolds


A. G. C. Liddell, Notes from the life of an ordinary mortal (1911) · P. Jalland, Women, marriage and politics, 1860–1914 (1986) · J. Abdy and C. Gere, The Souls (1984) · R. F. V. Heuston, Lives of the lord chancellors, 1885–1940 (1964) · Burke, Peerage · A. Lambert, Unquiet Souls: the Indian summer of the British aristocracy, 1880–1918 (1984) · WWW · d. cert.


U. Hull, Brynmor Jones L., corresp. with Lady Wenlock


J. M. Cameron, photograph, 1864–7, NPG; repro. in Liddell, Notes, frontispiece · J. M. Cameron, photograph, 1865–9, repro. in Abdy and Gere, The Souls · J. M. Cameron, photograph, c.1867, National Museum of Photography, Film and Television, Bradford [see illus.]

Wealth at death  

£23,784 6s. 9d.: probate, 27 Oct 1920, CGPLA Eng. & Wales